Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the second practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.
With the floodlights turned on and mild evening temperatures cooling the desert track, the Mercedes pair proved too quick for the two Ferraris — which dominated a first practice session held in searing early-afternoon heat.
Rosberg, seeking his first win of the Formula One season, posted a best lap of 1 minute, 34.647 seconds, putting him .115 quicker than defending champion Hamilton, who has won two of the first three races this year.
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Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was third best ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel. Both were more than half a second behind Rosberg.
Raikkonen was fastest in the first session ahead of Vettel — with Rosberg 15th and Hamilton 16th as Mercedes drove conservatively to manage their tires.
There were some hiccups for the leading drivers in the evening.
After a red flag halted the session near the end, Hamilton and Raikkonen failed to leave their pit lanes correctly and stewards investigated.
Earlier in the second session, Hamilton mentioned that his rear tires were sliding and had a brief scare when he took a turn too wide and veered momentarily off the track.
Rosberg, who has won just one of his past 14 races, was called back to the pits with two minutes left because his team was concerned with a telemetry issue.
The red flag came out with six minutes to go when Mexican driver Sergio Perez swerved into Vettel, taking off the German’s left front wing.
That incident — which was also investigated — clearly annoyed four-time champion Vettel.
"I had a failure — a brake failure — and then Perez took my wing off. Unbelievable," he said over his radio.
In the first practice, Raikkonen clocked a best lap of 1 minute, 37.827 seconds, putting him .202 ahead of Vettel and .563 clear of the consistent Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, who was fifth in the second run.
Ferrari has started the season well, with Vettel winning the Malaysian GP and securing two other podium positions to apply early pressure on Mercedes.
It proved to be another frustrating day for struggling McLaren, however, as Jenson Button stalled his car right at the start of the first session and was called back to the pits early into the second due to a problem with the engine’s data.
Teammate Fernando Alonso fared somewhat better, finishing seventh in the first session and then 12th.
McLaren has made the transition to Honda engines this season but the move has not gone smoothly so far.
There have been problems with the power unit since pre-season testing began in January and the car also lacks downforce. As a result, and despite boasting two former world champions, McLaren has failed to score a point this season.